Fall decor is one of my favorite things. I love seeing all of the pumpkins, funky squash, gourds, mums and scarecrows that are displayed this time of year. I also don't like to feel wasteful, so I like knowing that when I'm done with my fall pumpkins, I can feed them to my chickens to give them a nutritional treat that they will love.
Chickens will consume an entire pumpkin, from the flesh to the 'guts' and seeds. They will even eat the skin if it's not too thick or too tough. Pumpkins are full of nutrients that your chickens need to be healthy.
Nutritional Benefits of the Fleshy Parts
Chickens go crazy for pumpkin, probably because it's so good for them.The flesh of pumpkins is full of vitamins A, B and C. It's also packed with zinc and potassium. All of these are key nutrients that your birds need, and may even be deficient in!
Vitamin A can help regenerate cells and boost a chicken's immune system. Chickens are usually deficient in vitamin A, which is not good considering it can prevent proper mucus production. Lack of mucus can lead to dry eye and even respiratory problems. Do you notice frequent blood spots on your egg yolks? One or two occasionally is normal, but if it's common, you may have hens with vitamin A deficiency.
Vitamin B is a key player in proper energy metabolism, so it affects almost all of the body systems. Growth, development and egg production are affected by vitamin B. It's also crucial for proper embryo and chick development. A deficiency of vitamin B can lead to hatching problems (due to poor embryo development) as well as kidney and liver diseases.
Chickens can produce vitamin C, so it's rarely talked about. However, it's important that chickens have plenty of vitamin C during times of stress. Stress can occur during times of growth, a sitting hen, flock changes or illness. Supplementing vitamin C can help your chickens fight heat stress and can prevent water belly.
Zinc is especially important for developing embryos. It's a good idea to provide zinc to laying hens that you want to hatch eggs from about two weeks before they start laying the eggs that you want to hatch. This will give them a good supply of zinc to pass on to the embryos to ensure proper development. Deficiency of zinc can cause bone deformities and stunted growth.
Potassium is also key in embryo and chick development. Provide a potassium supplement about two weeks before you collect eggs to hatch. Potassium has also been shown to help chickens survive during times of extreme heat. If you have hens that lay reddish brown eggs, potassium supplements will help to darken the red in the eggs.
Nutrients in the Seeds
Don't think that pumpkin seeds are too large for your chickens to eat. They will eat them and they can digest them as long as they have plenty of grit. If you feed pumpkin seeds, it's a good idea to make sure that they have access to the grit that they'll need. You can feed fresh or dried pumpkin seeds to your chickens to give them a boost of vitamin E and zinc.
Vitamin E is a key component in a healthy immune and neurological system. Vitamin E can help to boost the immune system and can protect against coccidiosis, E. coli and bronchitis. Deficiency of vitamin E can lead to wry neck and even severe neurological problems.
Pumpkin seeds contain zinc in the thin shell membrane that is under the shell of the seed. Don't try to peel the shell off of the seeds before giving them to your chickens. When you remove the shell, you'll also remove the membrane that contains zinc.
Feeding your chickens pumpkin is a good way to give them nutrients that they need in a treat that they'll love. Are you feeding your chickens pumpkin yet?
Shelby DeVore is an agricultural enthusiast that enjoys writing about gardening, raising livestock and simple living. You can read her most recent posts on her homesteading blog Farminence. Find all of Shelby's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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